REVIEW: You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah (2023, dir. Sammi Cohen)

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 103 mins

UK Distributor: Netflix

WHO’S IN YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH?

Sunny Sandler, Samantha Lorraine, Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Jackie Sandler, Sadie Sandler, Dylan Hoffman, Sarah Sherman, Dan Bulla, Ido Mosseri, Jackie Hoffman, Luis Guzmán

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Sammi Cohen (director), Alison Peck (writer), Tim Herlihy, Elysa Koplovitz Dutton, Leslie Morgenstein and Adam Sandler (producers), Este Haim and Amanda Yamate (composers), Ben Hardwicke (cinematographer), Jamie Keeney and Brian Robinson (editors)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Two young best friends (S. Sandler and Lorraine) find themselves at odds with each other…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH?

Call me crazy, but it seems like Happy Madison is at its best when it’s NOT being so childish. While it’s true that Adam Sandler’s production company has often appealed to the lowest common denominator with obnoxiously juvenile movies like Billy Madison, The Waterboy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop and the ironically named Grown Ups films, lately they really seem to have realised that not every audience member is as dumb as they might have previously thought, and with recent films like Hustle, Murder Mystery, and now their first foray into YA territory with You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah, their maturity is finally starting to show.

At least, as much as it possibly can within a film that’s certainly geared more toward a tween crowd than adults, but this film nonetheless shows that Sandler and his world views are, at long last, beginning to settle into something a bit more tolerable.

Based on Fiona Rosenbloom’s novel of the same name, You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is about 13-year-old Stacy Friedman (Sunny “daughter of Adam” Sandler), who is obsessed with having the most extravagant and fun-filled bat mitzvah of all time – unfortunately, her dreams involving popular DJs and pop star appearances are often shot down by her loving parents Danny (Sandler himself) and Bree (Idina Menzel), who encourage her to focus more on her actual studying of Hebrew and memorising the Torah than the party itself. Nonetheless, Stacy and her best friend Lydia Rodriguez Katz (Samantha Lorraine) remain committed to their dream bat mitzvahs, whilst also dealing with their own middle school problems like getting in with the popular girls or harbouring a crush on the cute but dim boy Andy (Dylan Hoffman). Everything goes down the drain, though, when Lydia begins going out with Andy, causing Stacy to disown her friend and begin sabotaging her upcoming big day out of spite.

After the wondrous coming-of-age joy that was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, it feels like a thunderous crash back down to earth with You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah, which comparatively speaking is nowhere near as timeless or even as endearing as that Judy Blume adaptation. It leans heavily into a lot of lingo and mannerisms that only Gen-Z and younger can truly understand, which is honestly par for the course with most tween-targeted movies nowadays (and I’m not going to act like there wasn’t any blatant pandering when I and other millennials/Gen-Xers were growing up either), though it does somewhat restrict its timeliness with all its references to current fads without much in the way of knowing irony, which is something that Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade captured far more effortlessly.

There’s also the issue of the main character, who starts the movie as a rather unbearable brat, and unfortunately get worse – in some cases, much worse – before she gets even the slightest bit better. Stacy Friedman is a character who, like most tween girls around that age, thinks that the entire world revolves around her, and that everyone within her vicinity, from her family to her long-suffering best friend, must bow to her whim on command. While that may seem like a realistic enough portrayal of a modern-day tween girl, and it most probably is, there are points in this movie where this character becomes an absolutely nightmare, to where you feel sorry for her parents for having to put up with this person, and are even entirely sympathetic to her friend for going behind her back because, well, why would she want to be associated with someone so high-maintenance? It gets to a point where she says and does things that are just cruel, even for people of her age group, which makes it hard to fully be on her side when she perceives things to not go her own way.

All of that being said, You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is at the very least aware that its main character is a shrieking nightmare, and does go out of its own way to call her out on her unwavering brattiness. If this were a Happy Madison film from ten or fifteen years ago, this character and her obnoxious personality would be celebrated as a misunderstood outsider, but here it’s made clear in so many ways that she is almost always in the wrong, and is someone that desperately needs to get their act together before they become an adult as per the Jewish tradition. Credit also goes to the bright performance that Sunny Sandler gives, because she nails her character’s flaws to an almost scary degree, as well as displaying a strong screen presence that, much like her father (who has some very likeable moments in a much more subdued supporting role), suggests a strong career in comedy within her future.

The film is also restrained enough to not go too far into the usual Happy Madison toybox of stupidity, with the very few gross-out moments – including one involving a menstrual pad – treated not as easy moments of shock humour but as the legitimately embarrassing and upsetting moments that they are, with the ones pointing out how disgusting it is being immediately called out for their insensitivity. There are still moments where you can definitely tell that this is a Happy Madison movie, such as the bright and sparkly clean cinematography, or even some of the eccentric supporting players like current SNL cast member Sarah Sherman as a cartoonishly hip Rabbi, but within the context of this particular narrative and its target audience, it doesn’t get as annoying as other instances in the past. It contains humour that, while certainly not laugh-out-loud funny, is at least not treating viewers like idiots, and actually does have moments of charm and heart that are easy to spot.

When it comes to most coming-of-age YA movies nowadays, there are ones that are technically more endearing and slightly less obnoxious than this one – if you haven’t yet, go seek out Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; it’s one of the year’s best films, and unlike this is destined to stand the test of time – but if all else fails, You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah isn’t a bad one to be stuck with.

SO, TO SUM UP…

You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is a decent enough YA offering from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, which might not be as timeless or even as endearing as recent coming-of-age classics, but is much more reserved and tolerable than most other Happy Madison movies.

You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

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